- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 29, 2001

Imelda Roberts had never written a song in her life before September 11. But the Frederick, Md., resident says she was so moved by the tragedy and suffering of that day, the words just began to flow.
She wrote songs about the World Trade Center twin towers, about the Pentagon, about the firefighters and police officers who worked to save lives, and about the children on whom, she said, the future now rests.
Yesterday, at a ceremony at the Arlington courthouse, those songs were presented to a group of local firefighters and police officers as a celebration of their hard work, commitment and heroism.
"A Gift of Light and Songs Musical Tribute" was conceived, created and presented entirely by about 20 volunteers from the District, Maryland and Virginia, led by Mrs. Roberts, who was born in the Philippines.
"Today, listening to my songs, I couldn't believe I wrote them," said Mrs. Roberts, who works as director of human resources for the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments and says she spent just two to three hours writing each song.
The six songs presented yesterday will be put on a CD with all proceeds going toward the Families of Freedom Scholarship Fund, which provides educational assistance to children and spouses of victims, she said. The fund has already raised $50 million.
Mrs. Roberts is now trying to organize similar presentations of her musical tribute in New York City and Pennsylvania.
"We wanted to start with our region. This is a beautiful sharing of hope for all of us," she said.
"The holidays are a very important time for the families of the victims," said Ron Carlee, Arlington County manager. The presentation, he said, demonstrated the "generosity, love and unity, which has emerged from the horrible tragedy."
Mrs. Roberts also designed for the event replicas of the twin towers, lit from the inside and mounted on a Pentagon-shaped base, which she presented yesterday to Arlington fire Chief Edward Plaugher and police Chief Edward A. Flynn.
Several firefighters and police officers packed the auditorium when Scott Forbes, a Montgomery County firefighter, sang "The Star-Spangled Banner."
Chief Plaugher said healing was an important part of a firefighter's job. "As firefighters, we regularly face horrific situations, and have to deal with the emotional health of our people. Something like [September 11] needs more healing," he said, adding that public support helped a great deal in such situations.
He said that during the attacks and after, it was the look on his firefighters' faces that had kept him going.
"If the individual was engaged in a rescue effort, the look on their face said that we can overcome that. That bolstered me. And we have come out of this stronger than ever."


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